Guns: Residents Rights or Managers Rights?

The second amendment is stated in the Bill of Rights as: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”. However, in the wake of recent, horrific events like the Cinemark shooting in Colorado and the elementary school shooting in Connecticut, the 2nd Amendment has been debated as either necessary or outdated.  With more than 6 million people in the United States estimated to have “right to carry” permits, this issue is on the minds of the entire nation.

The 4th amendment (giving Americans the right against search and seizure) is listed as so in the Bill of Rights: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized”. While a man’s home is his castle, a property owner has the right to have—or not have—control of his private property. He may have three television sets, a Rolex watch and a strict policy against pets, cigarettes or guns because it is his property. As long as he is not discriminating, he may decide to not allow guns on it. Although the law does allow people to acquire a permit to carry a concealed weapon, it also allows private businesses to determine whether permit holders can carry guns on their private property.

Can a property owner declare a “gun-free” building? The quick answer is “yes”. However the better question is “Should a property owner declare a ‘gun-free’ building?”  Property owners must think about whether such communities really are safer. Here’s one argument:

One side argues that more concealed guns means more disputes will be resolved with guns, which leads to more violent crimes. Yet the other side, best described by National Rifle Association (NRA) CEO Wayne LaPierre, states that “the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”.

Even still, in 2010 there were 606 accidental gun deaths in the United States with roughly two-thirds of accidental shootings occur in the home. Gun-control advocates claim that not allowing guns in the homes will minimize accidental shootings, domestic abuse shootings or heat-of-the-moment shootings. As one of the immediate reactions from a frightened parent might be to want to move the family into a community that does not allow guns, property owners should take disallowing guns into consideration, for the safety of their residents and property.

On the other hand, right to bear arms advocates answer that declaring a property “gun-free” is a magnet for criminals who won’t worry about other residents protecting themselves, their family, or the property with a gun.  And, although federal data shows that violent crimes committed with guns have declined for three straight years, murders, assaults and robberies are all down even with gun sales skyrocketing.

With this in mind, it’s important to consider that the Cinemark Theater in Colorado, The Westroads Mall in Nebraska and the Trolley Square Mall in Utah had all posted signs that guns were banned – even for those with permits – as property owners may choose to do. All had mass shootings even though similar venues more convenient to the shooters were spared. In fact, since 1950, with only one exception, every public shooting in the US where more than three people were killed has taken place where citizens are not allowed to carry guns.

Which right is right? Both.

Property owners are permitted to not allow guns on their property. They are obligated to do their best to maintain a safe and secure environment for their residents. If a property owner knows a resident is in possession of a gun, they should request to see and verify the permit. As studies have shown that posted “gun-free” signs are not a deterrent, to minimize risk, property owners who conduct criminal background screening can also screen for applicants who have a violent criminal history.

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Caryn Bennett

Caryn Bennett is the Director of Compliance with Contemporary Information Corp. In this capacity, Caryn works with landlords, property managers, realtors and business owners to ensure compliance with federal, state and local regulations regarding the multifamily screening industry. Caryn also assists consumers who wish to view, update or clarify information on their own consumer report. Caryn is a football (go Steelers!) and hockey (Pittsburgh Penguins) fan and also enjoys hiking, kayaking with her husband.

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